Emma Stone hits the mark and proves her rising star power in her first leading role, heading a lovable ensemble cast in the comedy Easy A. Although flawed, the high school flick is one of the most clever and original of its kind in recent years—certainly not up there with Mean Girls, but a definite few steps up from many of the ones listed in the teen movie genre since then.
In her Golden Globe-nominated role (For Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical), Stone plays Olive Penderghast, a sassy and smart-alecky but clean-cut senior at an Ojai, CA high school (Near Los Angeles). Think of it only like a little bit of Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Heron meets Ellen Page’s Juno, but only a little bit, as Stone brings her own brand of humor and emotion to an entirely new character. The film’s story is framed by a webcast by Olive and told through flashbacks of recent events, where it starts with a little white lie. Olive tells best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) that she lost her virginity to a community college student and although she did not, the false revelation spreads like wildfire around her campus. But instead of being brought down by it, Olive uses it to her advantage. Guys give her gift cards, coupons, money, and appreciation to get her to tell lies about sleeping with them in order to up their own reputations. And in ode to her reading The Scarlet Letter in her favorite English class, she even struts around campus wearing a red ‘A’ on her sexy corsets to flaunt her fake promiscuous status. Things hilariously unfold and one rumor leads to another, but as they occur, Olive’s life, friendships, and relationships become more complicated and even a little bit dangerous. The cast includes many star performances, including Amanda Bynes as a hardcore Christian classmate, Thomas Haden Church as Olive’s favorite teacher, Lisa Kudrow as the school guidance counselor and Church’s character’s wife, and Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as Olive’s hilarious and carefree parents. Penn Badgley, Dan Byrd, Cam Gigandet, Malcolm McDowell, and Fred Armisen also co-star.
The weaknesses of Easy A fall in its uneven pacing and plot holes, but it’s not obviously meant to be deep. The entertainment and laughs it provides make it a fun and worthwhile watch. At the same time, it’s not a mindless movie. Sure, many of the scenarios and portrayals are unrealistic, but the film follows a fresh and alternative way of dealing with the high school rumor mill. The dialogue and delivery of it is magic and better than even most “adult” comedies these days. Stone is humorous and charming, and serious when she needs to be, and naturally so at all three. The rest of the cast plays off of her well and is all naturally funny in their own ways. The explicit pop culture references, particularly the use of John Hughes films within Olive’s narration, makes for additional brownie points.
Despite shortcomings, it’ll be hard to say no to Emma Stone and all the actors and actresses and such a smartly-written and executed screenplay. Easy A is one nicely sharp pencil in the box of comedies in 2010.
OVERALL SCORE: 7/10